Regulators have today ordered chiefs at a scandal-hit maternity unit to release two decades worth of patient records.
Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust is the subject of a major review over concerns that dozens of babies and mothers died needlessly.
NHS Improvement has now extended its investigation into its troubled maternity unit to incorporate hundreds more cases.
The body has now demanded the trust hands over details of all stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths from between 1998 and 2017.
Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust is the subject of a major review over concerns that dozens of babies and mothers died needlessly
When the review led by senior independent midwife Donna Ockenden started last year, it was examining only 23 incidents.
But last week it emerged the review – initially meant to report back this autumn – now involved at least 104 families whose cases span 20 years.
The trust points out that it has already investigated 35 of these incidents and in 25, found ‘no signs of any failure in care’, it was reported last week.
It is unsure how many cases will now considered – but Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said all ‘potential’ ones should be looked at.
Mr Hancock, who took over from his predecessor Jeremy Hunt in July, warned ‘we’ve got to get to the truth’, BBC reports.
‘The investigation that has been set up can range as wide as needed to make sure that we get to the bottom of what happened.’
Maternity staff wouldn’t listen to us
Devan Cadwallader was admitted to Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, carrying a healthy baby.
But in the delivery suite four days later, doctors told her that daughter Quinn had no heartbeat.
Mrs Cadwallader, 25, said that before going into labour she told hospital staff that the baby’s movement had slowed down, but she was assured everything was normal.
Devan Cadwallader pictured with her husband Gavin
The findings of an internal review were inconclusive, and a post-mortem examination failed to find a cause of death.
Mrs Cadwallader and her husband Gavin, from Shrewsbury, believe their baby’s stillbirth last December was preventable. ‘If our concerns had been listened to, she could have survived,’ she said.
The hospital trust said it had asked the couple if they would allow their case to be referred to the independent review of its maternity services.
He added the review would also let affected families find out what happened, and help the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust ‘learn lessons from it’.
A number of families say their babies died needlessly because midwives missed treatable infections or complications.
Other women claim they were forced to have natural labours without the use of caesareans or forceps.
One mother, Kayleigh Griffiths, whose daughter Pippa died at Shrewsbury and Telford maternity unit, previously called for the board to quit.
She said: ‘The news is too much for us to comprehend, we have been hit very hard by it.
‘Releasing the same statement about being safe is an insult to those who have suffered.
‘Safe care and treatment is something that should be available to everybody. The board should step down.’
Richard Stanton, whose daughter Kate died just six hours after her birth in 2009, previously said: ‘The trust has buried its head in the sand.’
He added: ‘What we are seeing now is a tragedy unfolding that is beyond all belief.
‘I think the trust has continually failed to learn and in that situation mothers and babies are going to continue to come to harm.’
Approximately 5,000 women a year give birth in the trust’s maternity services, which include a main department and five smaller midwife-led units.
A damning report published in July found the units to be severely understaffed with an average of five midwives off sick each day.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists warned of a reluctance among managers to investigate errors or learn from their mistakes.
Earlier this month, the Care Quality Commission took enforcement action against the trust after its inspectors raised concerns about the A&E units.
Inspectors were particularly worried that staff were failing to diagnose and treat the deadly condition sepsis.
Deirdre Fowler, director of Nursing, Midwifery and Quality at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), said: ‘We welcome the approach of NHS Improvement and we are continuing to work closely with them.
‘We are fully engaging and co-operating with their review in an open and transparent manner, and we are committed to learning any lessons that arise from this review to ensure the best care for all of our patients.
‘SaTH provides a safe service for women giving birth. We would encourage any mums-to-be or families with any questions about their care to speak to their midwife.’
I was crying out for a caesarean
Disgusted: Amy Butler, with baby Bradley, was left in agony
A baby was left with a huge bruise on his head after he became trapped in his mother’s pelvis at one of the scandal-hit maternity wards.
Amy Butler, 25, said a consultant used forceps to yank her son during her delivery in August 2016, leaving his head marked and swollen.
She also claimed midwives mistakenly left her fully dilated for five hours, leaving her baby at risk of serious brain damage and herself in agony.
Miss Butler begged medical staff for a C-section during her seven-hour ordeal at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford but was told a natural birth was best.
Miss Butler, from Telford, said: ‘I am absolutely disgusted. I was crying out for a C-section but the midwives told me I was perfectly fine to go into labour.
‘Bradley got stuck in the pelvis and suffered a terrible bruise. His swelling was so severe it came over his eyes. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer any major problems but it could have been worse.
‘The midwives didn’t realise I was fully dilated for five hours, which is dangerous. I’ve got a gut feeling that if I wasn’t left dilated for that long then Bradley wouldn’t have got stuck in the pelvis.
‘I thought nothing of it before I read other parents’ stories in the Daily Mail.
‘Bradley was very slow developing. He’s just turned two and he’s only been walking for a month-and-a-half. He couldn’t sit up until he was ten months old.’
A spokesman for the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said: ‘We have received no formal complaint in this matter. We would be happy to discuss this with Miss Butler.’